Category: contemporary

I Am Thunder Book Review

Author: Muhammed Khan

Rating: 5/5

Buy: Amazon US

         Amazon UK

Stunning. Stunning. Stunning! Thank you so much to my librarian for showing me this book because it was phenomenal. I Am Thunder is a brilliant YA novel focussed on the prejudice against Muslims and the threat of radicalisation from the viewpoint of a high school student. Muzna has lived her life with her strict parents showing her that she is Pakistani first, Muslim second and British last – if at all. After moving schools, she meets a boy who treats her like she will become something, and she discovers freedom. It sounds quite fluffy at this point but (without spoiling anything) events begin to take a dark turn as she is torn between the hate people give her, and the possibility of hating them in return.

My knowledge of Islam is limited, which is why I was so keen to pick up this book. I’m an atheist, but understanding religion is something I not only find fascinating, but essential as well. Muzna is from a background of conservative Islam, trying not to obviously be religious due to their fear of prejudice. Firstly, I found this heart-breaking. To know that people feel the need to hide who they are in fear of hate is shocking – and I hope books like this can show the awfulness of Islamophobia and bring about change. 

Radicalisation is not something often depicted in novels, especially YA. However, this book shows how slowly it can weed into a person – without them really realising it; how sly extremists are when it comes to manipulation. But what I appreciated in this book is that Muslims were treated as the victims, not the masterminds, of this radicalisation. This is how people should be viewing extremism! It’s horrific that terror attacks are caused by people using religion as an excuse, and the people who truly believe in this religion are taking the fall! 

Even with the themes aside, I Am Thunder is  an excellent YA novel. The language is so colloquial and readable; time past so quickly whilst I was reading it! The plot develops quickly, but almost under the radar, so that you can’t really tell how intense things are until it hits you like a train. 

The author is own voice, so I hope that he is able to portray an honest experience of being a British Muslim. However, if you don’t agree with the way themes are tackled in this novel, please tell me and I’ll add your thoughts to this review. But otherwise, this read was both enjoyable and enlightening – an emotional rollercoaster.

Truth Or Dare Book Review

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Author: Non Pratt

Rating: 4.25/5 (idk I’m really conflicted)

Right y’all – I have some opinions I need to share. Just so you know, Truth Or Dare is a YA contemporary told in two perspectives: you read the first one and flip the book to read the second one. There’s no confusion over perspectives or chronology BUT the chronology is disconnected. But we’ll get onto that.

I enjoyed the story told in this book. It was heart-warming and even a little harrowing at times – and I can’t get over how honest it is. Non Pratt writes about a lot of sensitive/important subjects faced in the lives of the population (e.g. disability, mental health, sexuality, financial issues, rape, family etc.) and, in my opinion, she tackled these topics incredibly effectively. As a survivor of disability and mental health issues, I was quite overwhelmed with the honesty the narrator portrays. It is rare to see these subjects dealt with in such a raw, true and un-romanticized way – and I really respect that. It’s also highlights the absolute importance that is recognizing sexual assault. There is no graphic or traumatizing moments, but it does showcase the kind of sexual assault that is happening all the damn time with people of all ages – and the ‘casual’ attitude that many people have of consent. One quote in this book which crushed my heart was when the girl narrator says something along the lines of ‘I don’t just hate him, I hate the way he makes me hate myself’ which I thought opened my eyes even more to the awful confliction of the victim’s of this horrible crime.

Also, ARO-ACE REPRESENTATION Y’ALL! I’m neither asexual or aromantic but I so deeply need more rep for this group of people who get so looked over or misunderstood. My ace pal said the rep was fab, but I have no aromantic’s opinions yet and I’d love to hear what you think about it (I don’t want to say anything about this book without having all the info from the own voices, so if you weren’t happy with it, please let me know and I would be happy to add your opinion to this review.)

Besides that, the pacing in each section was good, the writing seemed very real and colloquial and generally I really enjoyed it. However, at the point where you spin the book round to read the second section, the pace changes so dramatically and I HATED IT. The end of Claire’s section was so action packed and full of adrenaline and ended on a cliff-hanger… but then I got to Sef’s section and it starts from the beginning again! I was so mad about having to read the whole story again to find out what happened next.

I soon got over that and now, having finished the book, I deeply understand why the author chose to go about the story the way they did – learning the other side of the story is so so important. But I had to knock off 0.75 stars for the aggravation it caused me at the time.

They Both Die At The End Book Review

Author: Adam Silvera

Rating: 4/5

Let’s hope I can stop crying enough to write this review. TBDATE is mind-blowing, but also almost harrowing for a YA contemporary. This is the first of Adam SIlvera’s books I’ve read but I’ll be reading ALL of them after this one. I don’t know how, but he was able to balance the scales between heart-warming and heart-breaking flawlessly – I was laughing, crying (with happiness and CRIPPLING SADNESS) and squealing throughout.

The most interesting thing about this novel is that the author decided to take the contemporary route rather than the dystopian adventure it could have been considering the concept. But no – there was no government conspiracy, no rebellion, no discovery of the secrets behind Death-Cast. Instead, it focusses on these two boys living their final day. And it’s beautiful. BUT BE PREPARED TO CRY OKAY.

Something I haven’t seen anyone talk about was how the chapters began when we were reading about a character besides Mateo and Rufus. Each one started with “Death-Cast did not call [insert name], because he/she isn’t dying today,“ and for some reason I really liked that. It was kind of quirky.

This story makes you think too. I’ve found myself trying to work out how Death-Cast works: maybe people only die when they’re called because they think they’re going to anyway?? or maybe it’s a fate reader?? maybe everyone has a set date to die?? maybe it’s rigged and it employs people to kill the call recievers?? Honestly I don’t know, but I kind of like being able to think of theories myself. But, on the other hand, it is awful not being able to know for sure.

A 4/5 from me. The only thing I wanted was a little more depth into the world Mateo and Rufus were living in. We did get quite a bit, but I still had more questions than I wanted by the end.

Everything, Everything Book Review

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Author: Nicola Yoon

Rating: 4/5

Beautiful and heart-wrenching story. Like a lot of people, I finally picked this up when the movie was announced, but it had been on my TBR for a while. I finished it in less then 24 hours! Shocking ending, and a stunning journey before it gets there.

I adored the unique format of this book with its IM screens, medical forms, definitions and doodles. This is definitely what I consider to be an indulgent read. But each of these details were balanced out by some beautiful quotes. Often, I would read over them over and over because they were so breath-taking. There were many uses of inspiring figurative language and I loved the metaphors the main character uses to describe her life as well as her relationship with Olly.

However, the problem I had with this novel was that the narration at some points was quite basic. During scenes, Madeline was shown as an intellectual and intelligent character, and a point is made of her impressive and extensive vocabulary. But throughout most of the story-telling, she narrates like a younger child, with the exception of the quotes I mentioned earlier. I just feel like someone as intelligent as her (and someone who reads) would narrate with more impressive word variation. But her figurative language was stunning, and something I felt was very suited to her character.

All in all, 4/5.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson – A Review

ya-book-reports:

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis

Emily and Sloane are best friends, practically attached at the hip. It is now summer and Emily has a million plans for what they will do. But one day, Sloane disappears. The only thing left behind is a confused Emily and a to-do-list written by Sloane. It is a list for Emily, a list of things for her to do without her best friend, challenges designed to bring her out of her shell. Since the list is Emily’s only clue to finding Sloane, she decides to complete it. But this is not an easy list. Number one is to kiss a stranger. Number two is go skinny dipping. Number five just says Penelope. This might be harder than Emily first expected, but with the help of some new friends and a whole lot of determination she might be able to finish it and hopefully find what she is looking for at the end of it.

Characters

Emily was never and outgoing person before Sloane came to town, and when they became best friends she was mostly known as Sloane’s best friend. Sloane brought the wild, daring and unexpected, and without her Emily is lost. Her only hope is to finish the list, but she might find something else than her best friend along the way; confidence, new friendships and possibly love. This novel also features an array of charming characters in the form of Emily’s new friends, who really help bring this story to life.

Thoughts

This is definitely a coming-of-age novel, and it is amazing to see Emily evolve from a girl who is afraid to talk to strangers to someone who stands on her own two feet. I wouldn’t say that it’s a story of romance as much as a story of self-discovery. Who are you really when all that is familiar is taken away from you and you are left on your own? Will you give up and retreat or will you fight to find a new place in the world? Emily chose the latter, and for that I admire her. This is a story of friendship and bravery, and it shows just how much you can change in one single summer, if you really put your mind to it. I have also written a review of Morgan Matson’s Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour. They are both stand-alone novels, but I recommend reading Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour first if you are planning on reading both of them, since this novel contains a spoiler about what happens with Amy after the end of her own story. If you are a fan of Anna and the French Kiss or Fangirl you will probably love this story as well.

//Love from L

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ya-book-reports: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour Rating:…

ya-book-reports:

Everything Leads to You by
Nina LaCour

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis

Emi is a
film lover and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. She
has desperately gone back to the same girl too many times to mention. But then
a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava is unlike
anyone Emi has ever met. She has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives
an unconventional life. She’s enigmatic. She’s beautiful. And she is about to
expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance.

Thoughts

I adore
this novel. The very first thing that made me fall in love is the way films play
such a huge part in Emi’s life. At just 18, she is working behind the camera as
a set designer, which gives you a very different perspective on the world of
filmmaking. I used to think that the actors were the real core of any film, but
now I see just how much work goes into making one, even one as small as the one
Emi is working on. It has made me look at films in a whole new way.

I think you
can really tell when someone is passionate about something, and it is evident
that Emi, and the author, really has a passion for films and everything about
them. Nina LaCour really knows what she is talking about, form the descriptions
of all the people working behind the camera, to all the little references to
cult films that pop up throughout the book. Either she loves films just as much
as Emi does, or she has done some serious research. Anyhow, as clearly as you
can tell that Emi is passionate about films, you can see that the author is
passionate about this book.

As you may
have guessed from the synopsis, the main character is gay. Frick yeah,
DIVERSITY! What I love most about Emi is that her being gay is not some big
revelation. It’s not about her questioning her sexuality because she just
kissed a girl. She knows exactly who she is and she is so confident about it.
The book starts out with her trying to deal with a recent break up, and
progresses into her falling for someone new. Seeing her become stronger and
then taking the chance to fall in love again is just beautiful, and will give
anybody warm fuzzies.

This is so
much more than just a love story. It’s about family, identity, and breaking up.
It’s about adventure, taking risks, and finding your place in the world. It
flows beautifully and has so many amazing characters. I urge you to pick this
up the next time you feel like reading something sweet and uplifting.

//Love from
L

Find it on Goodreads

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We Are Okay by Nina LaCourRating: ★★★★☆SynopsisYou go through…

We Are
Okay by Nina LaCour

Rating: ★★★★☆

Synopsis

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your
mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left
everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her
best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast,
at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy
she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter
break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face
everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has
made a home in her heart.

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts

This was a short and quick
read, but such a beautiful story. It deals with grief and loneliness is a very
poignant way. I found the writing to be absolutely stunning, and it paints a
vivid picture of the hardships Marin is going through. The story is told in
alternating chapters of flashbacks, a technique I’m a big fan of. I really like
how the backstory is unveiled bit by bit until right at the end you see the
full picture. It also helps make this novel into a page-turner. I read the
whole thing in one day (it’s just over 230 pages). I spent that day completely
absorbed in Marin’s strange and sad story.

I really liked the character
of Marin. As more and more of her backstory is revealed we learn more about her
and understand better why she acts and feels the way she does. She is not the
type of character you wish you could be, but she is the kind that you want to
gather into your arms, give a big hug, and tell them everything will be okay. Another
part of Marin’s character that I adore is that she loves to read and analyse
novels, which makes me relate to her even more.

This is a very sad story. It
focuses on grief in a very real way, showing all the ugly sides. There is
definitely no sugar-coating. It is raw and real, which I think makes this a
very important and necessary story, even though it comes across as quite a
downer. However, there are other facets to this novel. It also has important
themes of friendship and moving on from love. Okay, I know this is a little bit
of a spoiler, but I hope you won’t mind. The two main characters (Marin and
Mable) are both LGBTQ+. However, this is not a story about being LGBTQ+. Don’t
get me wrong, stories that deal specifically with that theme are hugely
important, but in this story the sexuality of the characters is only one aspect
of who they are, not their entire personality. I really love this, as it makes
the characters so much more realistic and complex. ‘Cause, you know, LGBTQ+
people are real, multifaceted people. What I’m trying to say is that a book
does not have to deal with LGBTQ+ issues in order to feature LGBTQ+ main
characters. Nina LaCour writes characters like these beautifully both in this
book and in Everything Leads to You (which
I also love).

Overall, this was a very nice
read, but not quite as good as Everything
Leads to You
, in my opinion. In spite of being so short this novel manages
to deal with a surprising number of topics, and to deal with them very, very
well. It’s hard to pin down just one subject or describe the plot simply. It’s
about many things all at once, which is what makes it such a brilliant read, in
my eyes. As Marin says about the novels she loves: “It’s better if it’s
complicated”.

//love from L

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Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie…

Lola and the Boy Next Door
by Stephanie Perkins 

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Synopsis

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion… she believes
in costume. The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more wild – the
better. And life is pretty close to perfect for Lola, especially with her hot
rocker boyfriend.

That is, until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket return to the
neighbourhood and unearth a past of hurt that Lola thought was long buried. So
when talented inventor Cricket steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back
into Lola’s life, she must finally face up to a lifetime of feelings for the
boy next door. Could the boy from Lola’s past be the love of her future?

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts

I first read this years ago,
back when I first read Anna and the
French Kiss
(which is one of my absolute favourites). Back then, I wrote a
review for Anna, but for some unknown
reason I skipped the review of Lola
and went straight on to reviewing Isla.
This missing review has bugged me for some time, so here it is at last. My
review of Lola and the Boy Next Door.

Strangely enough, I enjoyed
this book much more the second time around. Usually it’s the opposite;
rereading is never quite the same as that very first read when you don’t know
how things will play out. Perhaps I was expecting another book like Anna the first time I read this, and was
therefore a bit disappointed. For even though both Anna and Lola are written
along the same pattern with an adorable love story and personal growth for the
main character, I find them to be quite different.

Firstly, the setting. This
story takes place in San Francisco. It seems like a lovely city, and I would
love to visit it someday. However (risking offending some San Franciscans
here), it just can’t compare to Paris when it comes to creating a romantic and
enchanting backdrop. There is just no way to compare to the City of Light, and
that might be why the third book in this series goes back to Paris.

Secondly, the themes. Lola and the Boy Next Door deals with
much deeper topics than the first book in the series. Some examples are
bullying and parents with substance abuse issues. This means Lola is not quite as light and fluffy as
Anna was. Sure, the romance in this
book is top notch on the adorable scale, and Cricket is such a sweetheart, but
combined with the darker themes it makes this a different kind of book from Anna.

As I said, Cricket Bell is the
sweetest character ever. He really lifts the whole story in my opinion. Part of
why I did not enjoy this book as much as Anna
was that I did not love the character of Lola in the same way I love the
character of Anna. However, Cricket Bell saved the book on the character front
in my opinion. Some other characters who lifted the book were Anna and St
Clair, who get to make Easter Egg appearances. It helps tie everything together
into a series, and it’s so much fun to see where Anna and St Clair have wound
up after the ending of Anna and the
French Kiss
.

All in all I really enjoyed
this book. I will probably recommend this series until the day I die, and I
will continue to do so here. If you are looking for a romantic contemporary
with a bit more substance, perhaps to get you out of a reading slump, this is a
great book to pick up. And as I have discovered, it keeps being great however
many times you reread it.

//love from L

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